A year ago, I would have told you that I didn’t like the term “story games”. It seemed to me to be a slightly elitist term for roleplaying games used by slightly elitist gamers who wanted to put some distance between themselves and the dysfunction and baggage of “traditional” games like Dungeons & Dragons. I still can’t confidently tell people the difference beyond the mind-numbingly simple (“a story game is a game where you make a story”). However, I have come a long way in that year, partly because I have had a chance to put in a lot more play time on games that can’t be confused with D&D at all–games like Fiasco and A Penny for My Thoughts.
Most importantly, I’ve internalized a lot about the kind of play that happens at the Story Games Seattle Meetup group. Those gatherings demand that a whole and complete story be played out in 3-4 hours, (usually) without a centralized authority, and with zero prep. To make that work, you need games that create and support dynamic situations quickly. You need games that often feel very different from the traditional model to play. In short, you need story games. And my designer’s mind has really embraced the idea.
In my mind, I’ve started calling them story-making games. That is, games where the story is made by playing the game instead of ahead of time. I’ve found this so much more satisfying than traditional play that I find myself looking for ways to eliminate the game master from games that have them by default.
So, yeah, I’m okay with “story games” as a thing now. Which is not to diminish the fun that many people still have with traditional RPGs. It’s better for both activities to differentiate.